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M1944E1/M1945 Johnson Light Machine Gun

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In this video by Forgotten Weapons at the Rock Island Auction, Ian discusses “Emma,” the Model 1944 E1 (M1944E1) or the Model 1945 (M1945) of the Johnson Light machine gun. Melvin Johnson Jr. was a Boston lawyer and Captain in the Marine Corps Reserve. He gave all of his weapons women’s names e.g. the 1941 rifle was Daisy Mae, and Emma was the machine gun.

When Johnson saw that his M1941 was being purchased in small numbers by the United States Military, he pressed for more sales and a general adoption of the firearm. He made some modifications to the gun based on test results and recommendations from soldiers in the field. The result was the M1944, which he quickly refined to develop the M1944E1, also known as the M1945. It shares many parts with, and the same operating principle as the M1941 and the M1947 Johnson auto carbine.

The new version’s improvements included replacing the bipod with a monopod, which makes it less prone to interfering with barrel removal, supplementing a stronger bolt anti-bounce latch, using metal dual-tube buttstock instead of wood, and most significantly, developing a gas-boosted hybrid recoil operating system. The design was intended to have the recoil forces travel, along with the mass of the weapon’s moving parts, in a direct line to the shoulder of the gunner.

The M1945 was tested at the end of World War II. However, weapons development budget cuts at the conclusion of the war prevented it from replacing the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), disappointing Johnson and many in the Marine Corps.

The particular M1945 Johnson that Ian is showcasing in the video is fully transferrable, as it came out of the Winchester Museum Collection (now the Cody Firearms Museum) many years ago when curators would occasionally sell items from the collection to raise money.

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